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El Salvador - 2014 Presidential Election

Presidential elections were held in February (first round) and March (second round), and independent observer groups reported the elections were free and fair with few irregularities. During these elections, as in prior elections, the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) and the FMLN political parties accused each other of fraud, including reports of voting by ineligible prisoners, gang intimidation, and double voting.

Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a top leader of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) rebel army during El Salvador's civil war, won nearly 49 percent of votes in the first round in El Salvador's presidential election 03 February 2014, just short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off. He faced off on March 9 against Norman Quijano, the conservative former mayor of the capital, San Salvador, who took almost 39 percent of the vote and wanted to deploy the army to fight powerful street gangs.

Both candidates in El Salvador's 09 March 2014 presidential run-off election claimed victory. However, election officials said the race was "extremely tight" and neither candidate can yet be declared the winner. The result was an unexpected twist to Sunday's vote. Polls leading up to the election indicated Salvador Sanchez Ceren, of the ruling Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), held a 10- to 18-point lead over San Salvador Mayor Norman Quijano of the right-wing National Republican Alliance, known as ARENA. The victory by Ceren made him the first former guerrilla commander to hold the presidency since the truce ended a devastating 13-year civil war in 1992.

Ceren, from the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), won 50.11 percent of the votes while Norman Quijano of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (Arena) won 49.89 percent. Sanchez Ceren, who became the first ex-rebel to become president when he took over from incumbent Mauricio Funes, promised to make a national pact with conservative parties and business owners, and to establish a moderate government.

The Political Parties Law prohibits public officials from campaigning in elections. During the presidential elections, the ARENA party noted former president Mauricio Funes was illegally campaigning on behalf of FMLN candidate Salvador Sanchez Ceren. Funes cited a September 2013 executive decree that allowed government officials to campaign as long as they did not use public resources or campaign during working hours. In January, in response to a separate complaint, the CSJ issued an injunction freezing the application of the decree, and in late February the CSJ ruled the decree unconstitutional.

Civil society organizations publicly criticized the participation of Alba Petroleos, a partnership between Venezuela and the FMLN Association of Mayors (ENEPASA), in the presidential election. NGOs argued Alba Petroleos violated the Political Parties Law, which prohibits foreign funding of election campaigns.

The government of Salvador Snchez Cern continued a tough on crime approach to gangs in the country. In 2015, the Supreme Court labeled both the 18th Street gang and MS-13 as terrorists. These controversial counter-gang strategies have increased levels of violence between the police and gang members. Such policies have also contributed to prison overcrowding. The government cannot afford to continue incarcerating so many young Salvadorans.

By 2016 former President Funes, elected as a member of the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front party, faced civil prosecution for alleged illicit enrichment. Investigators argued that he and his family need to justify the origin of more than $700,000 in income. Salvador prosecutors also opened an investigation into possible corruption dating to his 2009-2014 government. In August 2016, Salvadoran authorities raided several homes and businesses searching for evidence related to alleged "crimes of embezzlement, illicit negotiations, misuse of funds, illicit enrichment and influence-trafficking." Funes denied any wrongdoing.

Funes' government repeatedly denied approving negotiations with the gangs, which were blamed for violence that had pushed El Salvador's homicide rates to among the highest in the world. However several officials from his administration said otherwise, and a group of mediators were allowed to meet with gang leaders both inside and outside prisons.

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